Ode To My Scrap Metal Man

Vern is my “go to” guy when I need scrap metal picked up.

Vern  is one of the people in my life I may only  talk to once or twice a year but I always enjoy bantering with him.

He’s been a farmer his whole life. His hands are gnarled stumps. Don’t know how else to describe them.

He told me before he was  married,he and his older brother would head to the big city on the weekend to look for some excitement.

Excitement = booze and girls.

One particular weekend, the two of them got into a fight with several of the local boys who didn’t appreciate them dancing with the local girls.

Eight on two.

Things were not looking too good, until some guy named Jimmy, home on leave. (whom they didn’t know ) jumped in to help. Suddenly it was eight on three, and the tide turned.  Vern still tells that story with a gleam in his eye.

But arthritis, age and cancer have taken a toll on his body.  His boys run the farm now and while he keeps busy, he is no longer needed in the same ways.

Five weeks ago, Vern was in a bad truck accident.

You know it’s serious when they call in the  helicopter to  get you to the hospital.

Rescue workers carry a person injured during an aircraft crash landing, to a waiting helicopter ambulance in Fisksjo park in central Stockholm, Sweden, April 12, 2007. Four people onboard the Piper PA 28 private aircraft were injured when the plane crashed into a tree in Fisksjo park  while attempting an emergency landing after encountering engine trouble. A large rescue crew was in place minutes after the crash landing due to an emergency drill nearby. REUTERS/Jonas Ekstromer/Scanpix (SWEDEN)         SWEDEN OUT    NORWAY OUT    DENMARK OUT    NO THIRD PARTY SALES - RTR1OK81

I’ve been keeping tabs on Vern via my brother who is friends of the family.

Three weeks ago, Vern took a turn for the worst.

He quit eating. He  was  sleeping all the time, had no feeling in his feet, had a broken pelvis, and  a cracked vertebrae in his neck.

Then last weekend, I heard he was starting to improve so I texted his son to see if he was able to have visitors.

“He’d like that!”

So this past Monday  after lunch wife and I headed to the big city to track Vern down.

6th floor, Room 603.

We found his room without too much problem, except that there was nobody in it.

A young nurse was  coming down the hall and noticed me sticking my head in his room.

“I just met him heading down to the exercise room, would you like me to take you there?”

“You bet!”

Nurse and I compared notes on Vern as we walked.

She got a kick out of him.   Quite the Vern.

Sounded like he was starting to get his feisty attitude back 🙂

Came the exercise room and there he was, sitting in a wheel chair in a tee-shirt and shorts.  A physical therapist was just about ready to do some exercises with him and another patient named Ralph.

We asked if it would be OK just to hang out for a few minutes.

Not a problem.

About five minutes into the routine the therapist got out a squishy rubber ball. Next thing you know, the five of us were playing catch 🙂
It was the perfect way to spend 15 minutes with Vern, just to let him know I was thinking about him.

Vern thanked me a couple of times for stopping.

Told me to stop by his room before I left and help myself to the home-made cookies. (I did)

I left a copy of a Countryside and Small Farm Journal with him from 2010.  Told him there was a short article in it that I had written.  Therapist was impressed she was taking with a published author.

 Yea right. 🙂

I tried to tell her, this particular magazine will print just about anyone who submits an article if it ties into the theme they are working on.

Tell me about one of the favorite people in your life, you may only see once in a while.  What makes them special? DM

99 Red Balloons

The wind was coming out of the Northeast when we released the  balloons.  Within 30 seconds, 80 of them were tangled  up in a pine tree, and that is as far as they went.   The rest of them got away.

My  original thought was to fill 99 red balloons (just like the song) with helium, attach a little message to each one with my e-mail , and if someone would happen to find a balloon, shoot me a message to let me know and see how far they went.

The balloon release was part of a bigger event on our property.

In 2002  when we planted our first 40 apple trees, as I was standing there looking down the rows of the little 3 ft twigs baby apple trees , (they are called whips),in my mind’s eye, I could see full-sized trees, loaded with red and yellow apples.  Children running up and down the rows playing hide and seek.

Music.

I could hear live music and laughter coming from a stage planted in the middle of the orchard.

Keep in mind, this was all in my head at this point.

The trees would not start producing apples for another 5 to 7 years.  But from that idea was born  a series of music festivals we hosted starting the Fall of  2002 until just a couple of years ago.   I am currently taking a break from the whole thing, cause I’m still slightly burnt out from the 7 concert series we hosted in 2009….

I think I’m starting to run down a bunny trail right now….

Pause..

Anyway, we had our first musical event the Fall of 2002.  It was everything and more I could have hoped for.  I wasn’t even sure who would want to come, or what sort of musical talent I could scare up.  Turned out, there is a lot of musical talent all around me, just waiting for a chance to take the stage.

So back to the balloon release….

Next morning  less than 12 hours later after the balloon release,  I got an e-mail. Someone had found  balloon # 51.   445 miles to the east.  It had crossed Lake Michigan and wound up in a fence near Parma Michigan. One month later, I got a second e-mail.Balloon #42 was found in Alfords Park Kenosha Wisconsin. 242 miles from home. That one had decided not to cross Lake Michigan 🙂

Now that was interesting because the wind was blowing from the East when it left…How in the world did it wind up traveling East?   Apparently the wind in the upper atmosphere was blowing in the opposite direction.

Blogging is like that for me.

I release my thoughts in the form of a blog post and sometimes, in the most random fashion, someone will stumble across one of them…And once in a while, wonder of wonders,someone will leave a comment.

Some sort of connection takes place.

If you’re a blogger then you probably know exactly the feeling I’m trying to describe.  That connection you experience with random people, from all over the world.  And sometimes, those people become a friend.

There are good people scattered all over this globe.

Last time I counted,  out of all these hundreds of random connections I’ve made via blogging,  My wife and I have met 7 of you in person, in the flesh, a couple of you multiple times.

If you don’t mind me asking, where in the world are you as you are reading this?  Be as general or detailed as you like. 

  Just so you know, this blog is originating from the United States of Merica. 😉

large_detailed_political_map_of_the_world

Never underestimate an old man

Jason took a picture of me this afternoon as I was pumping insulation in a farmhouse wall cavity.  I was feeling frisky.

No tripped breakers.

No plugged hoses.

I  even let out a few little “happy sounds.” (they are like a yelp, you only hear them on special occasions. 😉

 insulating walls

Me running the insulation hose.

I realized when he started asking me  questions, he wasn’t taking just a picture,  he was actually video taping me.

He wanted to catch some of my “happy sounds” on video.

“I’m going to put this on you-tube.”  He said with a smile.

Hummm…

I wasn’t sure about that.

Then I remembered a conversation he and I had about the word “swamp-ass” a few years ago.  He’d gotten a new phone.  All  he  had to do was speak into it and it would look up anything, including the word swamp#$%.

Well, for a couple of days, swamp#@! was the word of the day.  I jokingly said, I might just have to write a blog post about that word, embed a few pictures of him, so when someone looked up the word swamp$@#, Jason’s  picture would come up.  🙂

He didn’t think that was funny.

So, today when he jokingly said, he might have to post that clip of me on-line, I brought up the conversation about swamp#$$……

I don’t think there is any danger of him posting anything of me w/o my permission.  😉

I then told him the condensed version of the following story….

An old prospector shuffled into town leading an old tired mule.  the old man headed straight for the only saloon to clear his parched throat.  He walked up and tied his old mule to the hitch rail.

As he stood there, brushing some of the dust from his face and clothes, a young gunslinger stepped out of the saloon with a gun in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other.  The young gunslinger looked at the old man and laughed, saying, ” Hey old man, have you ever danced?”]

The old man looked up at the gunslinger and said, “No, I have never did dance…never really wanted to.”

A crowd had gathered as the gunslinger grinned and said, “Well, you old fool, you’re gonna dance now.”and started shooting at the old man’s feet.

The old prospector, not wanting to get a toe blown off, started hopping around like a flea on a hot skillet.  Everybody was laughing, fit to be tied.

When his last bullet had been fired, the young gunslinger, still laughing, holstered his gun and turned around to go back into the saloon.

The old man turned to his pack mule, pulled out a double- barreled shotgun, and cocked both hammers.  The loud clicks carried clearly through the desert air.  The crowd stopped laughing immediately.  The young gunslinger heard the sounds too, and he turned around very slowly.  The silence was almost deafening.  The crowd watched as the young gunslinger stared at the old timer and the large gaping holes of those twin barrels.  The barrels of the shotgun never wavered in the old man’s hands, and he quietly said, “Son, have you ever licked a mule’s @%$?

The gunslinger swallowed hard and said, “No sir, but…..I’ve always wanted to.”

________________________________________

There are a few lessons for us all here…

* Never be arrogant

* Don’t waste ammunition

*Whiskey makes you think you’re smarter than you are

*Always, always make sure you know who has the power.

*Don’t mess with old men, they didn’t get old by being stupid.

I just love a story with a happy ending, don’t you? 🙂

Brainscan

What           a               week!

Gonna take Anne Lamotte and Brenda Ueland’s advice and just start writing.   Get the tangled thoughts down on paper and worry about sorting them out later….or not. 😉

Wife has been gone all week and won’t be home for a couple of more days.

What can I say?

I feel a little guilty.

She is , helping out with the grand kids and I am enjoying peace and quiet, steak, morel mushrooms, and catching up on things around home.

Our second grandson was born with multiple disabilities (he’s 7 now) and was in for a 48 hour observation this past week.   Doctor  wired his head to a machine to monitor brain waves, while being confined to a 12 by 16 ft hospital room.

Wife wanted to go along to keep our daughter company.. First night in, they diagnosed him with.  “Atypical Absence Epilepsy”  (This is in addition to Angelman’s Syndrome and Klinefelters).

I am surrounded by death and disease.

Makes me appreciate  my life currently even more...

Sort of  like this song….

I feel like I’m a seal on a rock, hanging out with my fellow seals,  watching great white sharks picking off my peers.

seal on a rock

picture of little old me

Young man who worked for me from  2005-2007, was found dead  a month ago.  Not at liberty to tell you more.  What a shocker.

My neighbor, who is about my age,  was diagnosed with an aggressive type of blood cancer last month. Five year  life expectancy. (tops).

After they started chemo  he came down with a gall bladder attack. They were trying to hold off doing surgery, because he currently does not have an immune system to fight off infection.  I heard today, they are going to do surgery in the next couple of days anyway, as they still look for a bone marrow donor.

Dang.

On my work front, my latest employee, decided to quit on me this past Tuesday, without any notice.  I stopped by his house to pick him up, and he would not come to the door, he shut off his cell phone and well, that left me with a lot of work,  and no employees currently 🙂

I am not whining, just not sure what to do next to find good help.

I am currently on a Jules Verne kick.  I’d read Journey To The Center Of The Earth, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea back when I was in Junior High, but it’s been so long I forgot most of it.  I picked up a used hardcover with 7 of his stories on Amazon last month.  Discovered the guy was a prolific author…. Did you know he wrote over 50 different books?

What I am liking about Jules Verne is, the stories are a complete escape.  I don’t watch TV, rarely watch something on-line, so after a big day on the construction site,  10 minutes with Captain Nemo and I’m ready to hit the sack.

Work the past month has been more physical than normal.  Lots of climbing.  We just finished our 4th roof a week ago, and this week  spent three days ripping siding off an old farm-house.  Two of the perks when I’m doing this kind of work are, #1  I sleep like a baby, and #2 I lose weight without even trying.

Apologize for the randomness of this one.

It is a pretty accurate snap shot of my brain this week.  DM

Fear, Faith, Personal Responsibility, And How They Intersect In My Life

The area of the United States we live in is called “tornado alley.”  Homes in our area have basements.  When the weather man issues a “tornado warning” we head for the basement.  Now you don’t have to head to the basement if you don’t want to but if an F5 tornado happens to rip through your neighborhood, you’d better be ready to meet your maker 😉

Category F 5 tornado : 

      Incredible tornado (261 to 318 mph)  Incredible damage.  Strong frame houses lifted off foundations and carried considerable distance to disintegrate ; automobile sized missiles fly through the air in excess of 100 yards;  trees debarked; incredible phenomena will occur.

My point is – it is not a lack of faith to have a basement in our area.  It is common sense.

If you live in Northern Minnesota, you’d better be prepared to get snowed in and make do without electricity once in a while.  or be willing to suffer the consequences.

If you live in the coastal areas of Florida, while you may not have to contend with blizzards, you probably know how to prepare for a hurricane..right?  My point is there is no contradiction between preparing for storms and having faith.

With the current instability in the world today, it’s not surprising I’ve been wrestling with questions of faith, fear and personal responsibility.  This morning it hit me.  We as a family have spent the last 30 years learning how to walk by faith in such areas as:

Family planning

Finances (saving vs spending and giving)

Provision for the future (how much food to have in the cupboards)

Personal protection (whether or not to own a gun)

Work

Housing

Vehicles

So, for what it’s worth, here are some random thought on having faith and being prepared:

#1  If my personal security is in my money, my job, my brains, my gun, the people I know, even the country I live in..then I am just kidding myself.

#2  A wise man once said, “A wise man sees danger and makes provision, a foolish person walks naively into danger and wonders later what happened.”  Proverbs

#3  When I encounter an area of life that has got me distressed .  I will ask myself this question: ” If the worst case scenario did happen. would I be OK with that?  Is there anything I can do to make provision so that it wouldn’t happen?  ( I will then think through my options, my current situation and do what I can)

For example:  Let’s say I’m  wrestling whether or not to use birth control.  I pretend for a moment we won’t.  I’ll just “trust” God for his provision.  Am I willing to have 8 or 9 children (or more) and live with the consequences of that decision?  (foot note: please don’t make a negative comment here on large families or take us down the bunny trail of family planning…I will delete it.. I’m just using this an example)

Unless I have a very good paying job, practically speaking, I’m probably going to struggle financially….that’s just a fact if I chose to have a large family

#4  Read Matthew chapter  25:1-13 from the bible for some thoughts on personal provision and decide which group of 5 you would like to be associated with.

#5  Too many people today live their lives from week to week, check to check.  In most cases, that is not faith that is stupidity.  For years we as a family did just that.  until I was challenged with the goal of getting one month, then two months, then three months ahead with our budget.  I can’t tell you the difference that has made in the stress level of our home going into winter.  My income didn’t change, how we managed our money did.  If you want to know more,. drop me a note and I would be glad to talk with you about this one on one via e-mail.

#6  Even in the animal kingdom (ants, bees, squirrels, bears, mice) all make provisions for the lean months.  Me thinketh they are smarter than some humans. 🙂

#7  It is better to be prepared and not have to use it, than need it and not have it to use.  That has many applications.

#8  I believe we live in a broken world.  I’m an optimist with a good dose of reality.  Because we live in a fallen world, it is not a lack of faith to lock your doors at night.  Feel free to do otherwise 😉

#9  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Still makes sense to me.

#10  To use a word picture, I see the uncertainty in the world today like a major change in the weather pattern.  You personally may have never had to have to deal with an F5 tornado before now, but now you might.  Balls in your court.

Picture of a lion looking into the storm.

Final footnote – the analogy of preparing for a storm comes from my wife. 🙂

Ten Reasons You Need To Plant An Apple Orchard

As we were getting ready to call it a day last night, my wife said to me, “Do you realize we are surrounded by apple trees in bloom?  Every window I look out,  including the laundry room window, I can see apple blossoms.” ….

orchard in bloom

Me amidst the apple trees in bloom 2015

apple tree starting to bloom

Apple blossoms starting to open spring of 2015

__________________________________________________________

Ten Reasons You Need To Plant An Apple Orchard

Hanging scale in our sales area

1.  Photo opportunities.   Our apple orchard constantly changes with the seasons.   There is always something catching my eye and bringing me joy.

Royal Court apple tree in bloom this Spring

2.  It provides the perfect blend of solitude and social interaction.  I love my peace and quiet.  There is nothing more nurturing for me than spending a Saturday morning alone, picking apples.  At the same time, I do love meeting and bantering with the public on occassion, and when the mood strikes, I will load up the pick up and head to our local farmers market.

Hawking apples at the farmers market last season

3.  Supplemental income.   Sure there is some work involved in tending an orchard, but not nearly as much as you might suspect.  One Semi dwarf tree  will cost you  $20 to $25.00 and once it’s mature, it can produce between 2 to 4 bushel of apples a year. = 80 to 160 pounds of fruit @ $1.50 a pound that’s $120 to $240 gross, from one tree…per year..not bad for some additional pocket change if you ask me 😉

4.  mental stimulation.    While the basics of tending an apple orchard are pretty easy to grasp, there is always something new to learn.   Did you know there are over 750 different varieties of apples in the United States alone, and over 2000 varieties world wide?

5.  Keeps you physically active. Keep those muscles moving”  my grandpa used to say.  Between the pruning in the early spring, to the picking in the fall,  having an orchard provides me with lots of  opportunities  to be physically active outside, all the while,I’m getting paid  and enjoying some fresh air.  As I  get older  I will probably do more of that “you pick” marketing, but for now, I can still climb and honestly, I love picking apples.  Last Saturday, I picked about 1200 pounds of apples in about 6 hours.

6.  Provides me with lots of opportunities to bless others.  I’m not going to brag and tell you how this works itself out except to say, I try to sell mostly our #1 apples, which means, what to do with the seconds?    The opportunities  to give are all around.

7.  Get to enjoy some varieties of fruit that are hard to come by normally – plus if you can find them, you’ll pay through the nose.  Sure we have Honey crisp, was told last year they were charging up to $5.00 a pound for those little rascals.   So far this year, I’ve picked 11 crates of them and probably have at least another 8.  My personal favorite is called the Ginger Gold:

Ginger Gold.

It is every bit as crispy as the Honey crisp and sweet.   Last year we had 32 crates of these little jewels.

8.  Fresh apple cider.    You haven’t lived until you’ve had fresh apple cider pressed from your own apples.   It’s got a texture and taste you’ll never , ever find in a store -ever.  If you come to visit, and the apples are in season, you can help me press out a batch. 😉

9.  You’ll  give the bees something to talk about.  Ever hear of the “waggle dance”?

10. Provides me with lots  of spiritual insight.

Life is full of mystery.    I believe God has hidden the answers to some of our questions about life in the apple orchard.

Pruning and suffering.  I hate it when people try to slap pat answers onto my life when I’m in the middle of something hard.  It makes me angry.  So I will not disrespect you and do that now.  Sometimes it feels like I’m getting “pruned”  and when it does, I barely have enough energy to survive, let alone  do more.

Fruitfulness (ever see an apple tree grunt?  🙂  Me neither.

Seasons.   Apple trees don’t produce fruit 12 months out of the year.  In fact, they need large blocks of “down time”  in the winter..to get ready for the next season.  They literally need that time, which is why apple trees don’t do well in warmer climates.

Variety.  Already mentioned this one, but it bears repeating.    Apple trees vary widely and differently in the type of fruit they produce.  I think people are created much more varied than culture tries to tell us.   I found an apple tree on an abandoned farmstead a few years ago like nothing I’d ever seen before.  Some heirloom variety I’m sure.  It looked and tasted just like it was designed to taste.  Definitely not some domesticated boring apple.  So why do you and I sometimes think we have to look like everybody else?   Nothing more beautiful than someone being 100% alive just the way they were designed:

Heirloom variety I found at an abandoned orchard near here

As always, thanks for reading my stuff 😉 DM